Activist ‘Cove’ filmmakers ambush swanky LA sushi restaurant that secretly served illegal whale meat

LOS ANGELES - Federal prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against a sushi chef and a Santa Monica restaurant on allegations that they served illegal and endangered whale meat. Typhoon Restaurant Inc., which owns The Hump restaurant, and sushi chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, were charged with illegally selling an endangered species product, a misdemeanor. According to a search warrant, marine mammal activists were served whale during three separate visits to the restaurant. Federal labs confirmed the meat came from a Sei whale, an endangered species protected by international treaties, documents said. Agents also seized some suspected whale meat during a search of the restaurant Friday but are awaiting test results to confirm it was Sei whale, U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozak said. In October, two activists posing as customers went to The Hump and ordered "omakase," which means they let the chef choose the choicest fresh fish. They also requested whale and pocketed a sample. The young women worked with Louie Psihoyos, director of the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove," to record the meal with a hidden camera and microphone. "These are endangered animals being cut up for dinner," Psihoyos said. "It's an abuse of science." Psihoyos took their findings to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which started an investigation. Activists claim the whale meat came from Japan's scientific whaling program and was illegally exported, but the U.S. attorney's office is still investigating the source of the meat. Japan kills hundreds of whales in Antarctic waters each year under its research whaling program, which has triggered violent protests by conservationists and caused strong objections by diplomats in recent years. An attorney for Typhoon, Gary Lincenberg, said the restaurant accepts responsibility for serving whale and will agree to pay a fine. If convicted, the company could be fined up to $200,000. Court records say agents Continue Reading

Sushi chef must pay $5,000 for illegally serving whale meat in California

A top sushi chef has been fined $5,000 for serving protected sei whale meat to diners at a now shuttered high-end California restaurant. Kiyoshiro Yamamoto was also slapped with 200 hours of community service and two years of probation for his role in the scandal at The Hump eatery at Santa Monica's small airport, reports NBC Los Angeles. An investigation was launched in 2010 after producers behind "The Cove" documentary secretly filmed him illegally serving up the meat. Sei whales are listed as both protected marine mammals and endangered species. And it is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the U.S. Yamamoto, fellow chef Susumu Ueda and The Hump's parent company Typhoon Restaurant Inc. were all initially charged, reports the Los Angeles Times. The charges were dropped, then refiled and revised last year. Yamamoto and Ueda pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and the sale of marine mammals in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Ueda received the same punishment as Yamamoto after being sentenced earlier this month. Restaurant owner Brian Vidor and his company were also sentenced last month to fines and probation after he confessed to knowing his chefs were serving the food. Meat supplier Ginichi Ohira also pleaded guilty to his role in the scandal, and will learn his fate June 23. The Hump closed its doors in 2010. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading